Good Haircutting ShearsQ: After a disaster at the salon, I've taken to cutting my chemically damaged hair on my own. So far, I am achieving good results, trimming every 6 weeks to slowly grow my hair out. I would like to continue this process with a really good set of shears or scissors - but which? I have naturally curly hair that is coarse and thick. Also, are Japanese (convex) or German (bevel) implements best for my kind of hair? I've heard that the blades "grip" hair differently.
A: I don’t know about the idea that the “blades grip the hair”. Honestly, it sounds like marketing hype. The key to a “good cut” from a pair of scissors (also referred to as “shears” in the trade) is having sharp blades. As long as the blades slice through the hair strands effortlessly, you’re going to get a good clean cut. If the blades are dull, the hair strands get “mashed” before they sever and this can result in split ends and frizz as you try to comb and brush through the hair.
The type of scissors you choose then becomes a matter of need. It’s true that some salon stylists will spend hundreds (even thousands) of dollars for quality haircutting shears, but these individuals use their shears almost constantly, cutting for hundreds of clients in a week. The scissors have to either be constructed to hold an edge for a long time (and be able to be re-sharpened to the same keenness) to be able to stand up to the workload to which they will be exposed.
However, for you and many other household hairstylists like yourself, the kind of workload you’ll put your shears through is insignificant comparatively. While I wouldn’t go out and look for the cheapest scissors I could find (and you can get “barber shears” for under $15 [U.S. dollars]) there’s no reason to spend a ton of money on scissors. Personally, I took the advice of my instructor years ago and opted to purchase shears with replaceable/disposable blades. The shears with a starter pair of blades can be found these days for between $60 and $80 (U.S. Dollars). Even in a school setting where her shears saw constant use, she said she only had to replace the blades every six months or so. (Replacement blades run between $10 and $13 [U.S.].) You don’t have to opt for shears with disposable blades, but it is an option.
If you want to select a good pair of shears, you should go where you can try out the different sizes in person. Most beauty supply stores have a wide selection of haircutting shears. Typical sizes are 4.5 inch, 5.0 inch, 5.5 inch, 6.5 inch, 7.5 inch, etc. The longer shears are typically used by male barbers and are more comfortable for larger hands that do a lot of “scissor over comb” cutting. Comfort and fit are paramount, because trying to work with scissors that are too large (or too small) for your hand can lead to accidents and can feel unwieldy.
In a proper scissor fit, your ring finger and thumb will go into the finger holes, the pinky finger will rest on the tong at the end, and the index and middle fingers will rest along the handle, stopping at the joint screw. By manipulating your thumb, the scissors should open and close easily without crowding the fingers on the upper side.
Finally, these should always be “hair only” scissors. You should never allow yourself to think that “a little snip of this or that won’t hurt”. If you forget that your haircutting scissors should only be used on hair, you’ll quickly find they’ve grown dull and you’ll have to have them sharpened or replace the blades (or the shears themselves) depending on what you’ve chosen and the cost of the options. (You wouldn’t want to spend $50 to have your $60 shears re-sharpened.) Given proper respect and care, and granted that your scissors will be used only the smallest fraction in your home as in a salon setting, you should only need to replace or resharpen the blades every couple to three years. Be sure to always wipe the scissors clean with a dry cloth and then oil them with a light machine oil before storing them. Store them in a dry, moisture-proof container (wrapped in cloth inside a plastic bag works fine).
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